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Pre-Duel Pleasantries: WKU

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Talking to our good friend Fletcher Keel about the Hilltoppers.

Hopefully Justin Johnson is not celebrating on Saturday
Hopefully Justin Johnson is not celebrating on Saturday
Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

Tomorrow your Musketeers play in their first game since the exciting tournament in Orlando. Many are wondering how the tournament energy will translate after a week off, but we seem to know even less about our opponents. Xavier does not usually play Western Kentucky University, so we sat down with our friend Fletcher Keel to talk about the WKU team. Here's what he had to say.

1.) Western Kentucky is 4-3 on the season so far. What are the expectations for this team?

Expectations for WKU coming in to the year really depended on who you talked to. This is the first season the Hilltoppers are playing without George Fant and TJ Price, who were four-year starters, and Trency Jackson, who transferred to the Tops two seasons ago.

So, naturally, some thought they'd flounder, some thought they'd find success, and really so far, it's been a combination of the two. The Tops went toe-to-toe against Belmont in Nashville and outlasted Stony Brook at home, but lost to Drake and Duquesne so this team is still trying to find its groove.

2.) Most Xavier fans have not gotten the chance to see WKU play basketball this year, so who should we be watching out for?

Justin Johnson and Fredrick Edmond are probably the two names Xavier fans will hear most when doing some research and preparation for the Tops. Johnson has stepped up nicely to take over the role George Fant left, and Edmond has been a WKU recruit for years, but had to go to community college immediately after high school, but is making an immediate impact with the Tops.

3.) Western Kentucky made the Final Four in 1971. Is that the greatest sports achievement in the history of the Hilltoppers?

In terms of the basketball program, probably. Although, for newer Toppers (such as myself, who's only been following since 2011), the infamous "Four Games in Four Days," under Ray Harper in the 2011 Sun Belt Conference tournament is probably up there. WKU also came so, so close (and, in my opinion, should have pulled it off) to being the first #16 seed to upset a #1 seed in tournament history against Kansas, but some...questionable...officiating helped the Jayhawks win.

In terms of WKU athletics as a whole, that's tough. The Lady Toppers have been to a handful of Final Fours of their own, and even made an appearance in the national championship game in 1991. The football team is quickly on the rise and is playing for its first ever FBS conference championship hours before things tip off in Cincinnati.

So the greatest achievement? Hard to say. But certainly the tip of the iceberg on a very historic and proud mid major program.

4.) Have you had Skyline Chili and if so, what are your thoughts on it?

I have not, but not because of lack of opportunity. I'm a picky eater, and am not much of a chili person. BUT my girlfriend is from Cincinnati so I've visited often and know all about the lore and legend of it.

5.) How do you think this game will play out?

Unfortunately for WKU fans who may be reading this...not good. Xavier is playing so, SO well to begin the year and the Tops are still struggling to find who they really are. However, WKU has a habit of playing to their competition (be it up or down), and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if the Tops keep it close. But, by the same token, I wouldn't be surprised if its a 15 point Hilltopper deficit at the first media timeout.

Because I'm an optimist, I'm going to say the former and say the Tops actually show up and show out, but fall 85-72.

There you have it. Mr. Keel thinks that Xavier will take this game, but WKU still has a team to watchout for. Be sure to watch Saturday night at 8:30 and go X.